Being and Doing Amen
(4th Sunday of Advent: Isaiah 7:10-14; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24)
In the verses preceding our first reading, we learn that Judah’s enemies were joining forces to attack Jerusalem. At this news, “the heart of the king and heart of the people trembled.” So God sent Isaiah to King Ahaz to tell him, “Take care you remain calm and do not fear... Unless your faith is firm, you shall not be firm!”
This last sentence translates the same Hebrew verb, “Aman,” twice. This is the source of the word, Amen, which we use, for example, to express our firm faith in the Eucharist as we receive Communion. Depending on context and grammatical form, “Aman” can be translated in a dozen or more ways.
Taking certain liberties, I propose a translation that you will never find elsewhere in print: “If you are not Amen, you shall not Amen.” In the first part, as a noun, it indicates faith in all its dimensions; the verb in the second part indicates standing fast. King Ahaz was not Amen. Unwilling to trust God’s promise, he refused to seek a sign.
St. Paul writes that, as an Apostle, he was sent “to bring about the obedience of faith.” He was Amen himself and wanted all to be Amen.
The story of Joseph is an Amen story of faith. “He did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him.”
Mary at La Salette called for the obedience of faith: “If my people refuse to submit,” she said, and, later, “if they are converted.” She who had said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord,” found among her people an attitude that responded No to the things of God, not Amen.
Our Gospel today recounts “how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.” It is a wondrous story, requiring the obedience of faith. That is true of every aspect of Jesus’ life.
At La Salette the Virgin Mother displays her crucified Son on her breast. It is especially in his passion that he is, as he is called in Revelation 3:14, “The Amen, the faithful and true witness.”
I pray that the coming feast of his birth will lead us all not only to say Amen, but also to be Amen and to do Amen, always and everywhere, like Mary, like Paul, like Jesus himself.